Where Russia Stands
After the Bolsheviks had obtained possession of power their outlook and tactics underwent certain fundamental changes.
Before the upheaval Lenin had set out certain propositions, absolutely essential, in his opinion, as a programme for the Russian Communist Party. These propositions are contained in a pamphlet entitled: “Towards Soviets. Thesis and a letter on Tactics.” (“International Library” 14, published by the late British Socialist Party.) In order to illustrate some of the changes in views and methods practice forced upon the Bolsheviks, we will deal with some of the propositions mentioned. On page 6 appears the following :
“While we are in the minority, we carry on the work of criticism and explanation of mistakes, urging at the same time the necessity of the transfer of all power to the Councils of Workers’ Deputies, in order that the masses may free themselves from mistakes by actual experience.”
This reads very nicely—”All power to the Councils of Workers’ Deputies”—the inference being that by this means all power would pass into the hands of the Russian workers, soldiers, and peasants. All through the insurrection the slogan “All power to the Workers” was used by the Bolsheviks as a rallying cry, to their considerable advantage, to say nothing of the furore it created among their windy would-be imitators in this country.
Right from the commencement the Bolsheviks, in practice, acted contrary to this principle. “All power to the Workers” remained, from the very beginning, nothing more than a phrase. All power signifies either what it is or—wind. In actual fact, like the so-called “Rights of Man” in the American and French Revolutions, the working out of the idea has been entirely different from its inference. In Russia ” All Power to the Workers” signifies all power to a fraction of the Bolshevik Party.
When the insurrection had been carried to a certain point successfully and the time arrived for “all power” to pass over to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the wire-pulling commenced. The Bolsheviks claimed to be the ruling party in Russia (although only a tiny fraction of the population), and would only agree to hand over power (which they, as leaders of the insurrectionary movement, already held) on certain very important conditions, relating to the constitution of the People’s Commissaries (the new form of government), which left all power where it already was—in the hands of the Bolshevik leaders. It is true other parties at the Congress were offered a place in the
to the Bolsheviks, and on condition that all the important departments were filled by the latter. After tumultuous sessions the Bolsheviks eventually gained their end. (John Reed. “Ten Days that Shook the World.”)
An ominous forecast of the future had been given by Trotzky when speaking on the 7th November 1917, during a night session of the Petrograd Soviet. He said that telegrams had been sent to the front announcing the victorious insurrection; also that troops were said to be marching against Petrograd to whom a delegation must be sent to tell them the truth. At this there were cries of “You are anticipating the will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets.” To which Trotzky replied “The will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets has teen anticipated by the rising of the Petrograd workers and soldiers.” (See John Reed p. 86.)
The final emptiness of the “All Power” slogan, however, was demonstrated by Zinovief in hie report to the First Congress of the 3id International in March 1919, where he stated :
“Our Central Committee has decided to deprive certain categories of party members of the right to vote at the Congress of the Party. Certainly it is unheard of to limit the right of voting within the party, but the entire party has approved this measure, which is to ensure the homogeneous unity of the Communists.
So that, in fact, we have 500,000 members \vho manage the entire state from top to bottom.”
This shows how much of the “All Power” the Russian workers, soldiers, and peasants possess. 500,000 out of about 180 millions possess all power in Russia ! And this eighteen months after the successful insurrection led by the group who made the world ring with the rallying cry that was to be the corner stone of the edifice they would build. It will therefore be wise to remember that the organisation of Councils of Workers by no means guarantees the passing of power into the hands of the mass of the workers.
The paragraphs quoted above demonstrate ttat the power of the Russian people to day “is vested in its Government”—the Government composed of the ruling faction of the Russian Communist Party. Lenin himself supplies us with a damning indictment of such a state of affairs, as witness the following :
“Inasmuch as all the power of a people is vested in its government the people is divested of all power.”
So that, with the able assistance of Zinovief and Lenin, we are now possessed of the information that the net result of the “All Power to the People” movement is that “the people is divested of all power” !
We will now take another proposition from the same paragraph in “Towards Soviets.” This proposition runs as follows :
Anchor “The abolition of the police, the army, the bureaucracy,”
There is a footnote to this particular item which states that the standing army would be replaced by the universal arming of the people.
In the first place was the standing army abolished on the accession to power of the Bolsheviks ? Of course not. On the contrary it was enlarged as a standing army by the addition of fresh units of armed workmen. Anyone who had suggested, at the time, the abolition of the standing army would have been regarded as a lunatic. The Army Council system was continued for a while, but it was found to be unworkable and was eventually abandoned. On this question Trotzky made the following statements in an address at the City Conference of the Russian Communist Party in Moscow, 28th March, 1918 :
“How do violence, carelessness, and even unscrupulousness develop ? They come exclusively from the fact that persons are holding positions they cannot master. Examine at close range what is happening in the Ukraine. Those who fought splendidly and heroically against the Kaledins, Dutoffs, and Korniloffs, who conquered these enemies who stood on the same technical level with them, failed us when they were confronted with the German military machine and felt the sense of their utter helplessness. Hence their dissatisfaction with themselves. They, these commanders of guerilla bands, fight against one another, accuse one another, not infrequently fight less against the Germans than against the native population. The example of what is happening in the Ukraine shows us that if we are to speak seriously about the defense of the Soviet Revolution by force of arms, by means of war, we must reject all the empty talk of the Left Social Revolutionaries about partisan or guerilla warfare, and all measures that make use of small bands, and proceed to the task of creating a regular army. Only if this regular army exists can these partisan bands play a positive part on its flanks. But in order to create such an army we need trained specialists, including the former generals.”—(“Class Struggle,” Vol. III., No. 4. Article “Work, Discipline and Order.”)
The above suggests any thing but the abolition of the army. Nor is it even the universal arming of the people, as a further quotation from the same address will show more clearly still:
“The duty of the Party organisations, the Party cells, will consist in making sure that the elements entering the army are in a political and moral sense of good standing.”
The only inference to be drawn from this is that proved Bolshevik supporters were armed, but neutrals or doubtfuls did not become a part of the “armed people.” Here is again an illustration of how practice converted a “revolutionary slogan” into mere wind. Bolshevik Russia cannot get on without a standing army, and, as in ordinary capitalist countries, the material composing this army is carefully selected and trained.
The next proposition in the paragraph in “Towards Soviets” lays down—
“The payment of all officials—elective and revokable at any time, at a rate not exceeding the average wage of a good workman.”
Was this policy adhered to ? By no means. Backward Russia was not ready for this any more than for the others.
We may here point out that the fundamental principles we are now examining are just the ones upon which Lenin grounds his claim that Bolshevik principles and policy are the working out of the principles laid down and acted upon by the Paris Commune. By showing that the Bolsheviks did not act in accordance with these principles we are, at the same time, illustrating where their policy differed from that of the Communards. We hope to go further into this particular question, but for the moment would urge that these points be borne in mind.
To proceed, let us take, first of all, the question of the payment of officials at the average rate of a good workman.
As soon as the Bolsheviks commenced the work of reconstruction they found themselves faced with a shortage of technical experts. In every direction ruin threatened unless they could enlist the assistance of those trained in the higher branches of science and organisation. In order to obtain this assistance they had to hold out a bait. Apparently force could not be applied. They were unable to say to this skilled section ” Work or starve !” Why? Because the workers and peasants of Russia were too intellectually backward to understand the meaning of the common ownership of wealth and its implication—the equal sharing of the burden of producing. Consequently it was possible for a portion of the population to obtain the necessaries of life without taking any part in production.
All through the writings of Lenin, Trotzky, and others runs the complaint of profiteering and selfishness among the peasants and other workers. If the land in Russia were owned and worked by the poor peasants, and its produce only supplied to the workers and those physically incapable of work, there would be no pickings for profiteers or food for parasites. The only conclusion we can come to is that the peasant sells, to those from whom he can get the best price—in other words he acts in accordance with the ordinary capitalist commercial code—and the back door is open to the speculator.
What was the bait held out to the technical experts, who could obtain the means of subsistence without working ? The bait was high wages—-far higher wages than “the average of a good workman.”
The following quotations are interesting in this connection. They are taken from “Resolutions and Regulations of the IX Congress of the Russian Communist Party” (29th March-4th April, 1920) published by the Executive Committee of the Communist Party, Moscow.
“Rivalry between factories, regions, guilds, workshops and individual workers should become the subject of careful organisation and of close study on the side of the trade unions and the economic organs.
The system of premiums which is to be introduced should become one of the most powerful means of exciting rivalry. The system of rationing food supply is to get into touch with it : so long as Soviet Russia suffers from an insufficiency of provisions it is only just that the industrious and conscientious workers receive more than the indigent worker—(p. 8).
Registration of individual output or productivity of labour and the granting of corresponding individual premiums must also be carried out in a way suitable to administrative technical [staff. Better conditions must be secured for our best administrators and engineers to enable them to make full use of their capacities in the interests of socialist economy.
A special system of premiums is to be established for those specialists under whose guidance the workers can attain the necessary qualifications to make them capable to accept further independent independent posts.”
In the above paragraphs we see put “forward the capitalist ethic of private gain as a motive force instead of the Socialist ethic—Social approbation, or the general good.
In connection with the above quotations and as an illustration of the lack of Socialist knowledge on the part of ”a considerable part of the workers” the following will be interesting :
“Owing to the fact that a considerable part of the workers either in search of better food conditions or often for purposes of speculation voluntarily leave their places of employment . . . the Congress considers one of the most important problems of the Soviet Government and of the trade union organisations to be the establishment of a firm, systematic, and insistent struggle against labour desertion. The way to fight this is to publish a column of desertion fines, the formation of labour detachments of deserters under fine and finally, internment in concentration camps.”—(Same source, p. 19. See also pp. 23 and 25.)
The last few lines, in view of those to whom the penalties apply, suggest, not the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” but the iron rule of the Bolshevik leaders.
Now let us take the next of Lenin’s points, that of the elective principle relating to officials. The application of this principle was short-lived and it was finally abolished at the IX Congress of the Communist Party.
“(4) The Trade Unions participate in the formation of the administration of factories or works. This is effected with the consent and agreement of the corresponding organs of the Supreme Council of Public Economy ; the principle of election must now give place to that of selection, which is to be based on practical experience and qualifications, on technical competency, firmness, organising capacity and business efficiency of the candidates.” —Rules and Regulations, p. 27.)
To really grasp the significance of this throwing overboard of the election principle it must be borne in mind that the appointment of such officials is not under the control of the trade unions, or similar bodies, but is under the direct control of the ruling group in the Bolshevik party, and further that the officials are revocable by this group only and not by any other organisation. A further quotation will illumine this point.
“It is therefore necessary that every trade union possess a strictly disciplined, organ .sed fraction of the Communist Party. Every fraction of the Party represents a section of the local organisation which is under the control of the party committee, whilst fractions of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions are under the control of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. All the regulations concerning conditions and organisation of labour are binding upon all trade union organisations as well as upon members sf the party working therein and can be repealed by no other party organs except the Central Committee of the Party”—(p. 35).
As yet a further illustration of the iron nature and wire-pulling methods the Russian mass ignorance has forced upon the Bolsheviks, and also as an illustration of the way in which the latter keep their hold upon power, we give the following quotations from an article by Lenin entitled “Should the Communists Participate in Reactionary Trade Unions ?” printed in the “Workers’ Dreadnought” Jan. 22, 1921, Here is Lenin’s statement as to the position and activities of the Communist Party and its relation to the Russian masses :
“The Communist Party meets annually in convention and is represented by one delegate for each 1,000 members. It is headed by a Central Committee elected at the Convention and consisting of 19 members, while the current work is conducted by a still smaller group at Moscow—the Collegium— called the Organisation and Political Bureaux, consisting of five members each, who are in turn elected by the plenary session of the C.E.C. No important political or organisation question is de-citied by any State institution without the sanction of the E.C. of the Communist Party. . . As a matter of fact all the executive bodies of the vast majority of the Trade Unions, and of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, are composed of Communist Party members who carry out all the instructions of the Party.
By this means . . . is developed a broad and mighty proletarian apparatus through which, under
the leadership and direction of the Communist Party, is realised the Dictatorship of the working class.”
The above bears a suspicious resemblance to the wire-pulling, bribing methods applied to labour leaders by “the best bourgeois parliamentary democracies” ! Was there ever a more iron, dictatorship of the few ? Was there ever a more “paternal” government? Surely the Dictatorship of the Working Class should at least signify that workers will dictate the means and methods to be pursued in organisation and so forth. Yet here we see that not the working class, but the leaders of the Communist Party do the dictating. So the ” Dictatorship of the Proletariat” is only another myth or “revolutionary” slogan.
A careful perusal of the quotations contained in this article will elicit the fact that another of Lenin’s fundamental propositions—the abolition of the Bureaucracy— was also consigned to oblivion. What is Bureaucracy ? According to Annandale’s Dictionary it is the system of centralising the administration of a country, through regularly graded series of government officials.” And what else is the administration of Russian affairs to-day in actual fact ? ”Better conditions must be secured for our best administrators.” “A special system of premiums. . . for those specialists, etc.” “Assigning class conscious workers to all village posts, etc.,” and so forth.
And this, we are told, represents the transition stage from Capitalism to Socialism ! To us it reads like the efforts of a “vigorous” few to retain power after having gained it upon a wave of popular emotion without having the backing of knowledge on the part of the majority of the population.
These facts should drive home more power fully than ever the hopelessness of attempting to bring about a change in the social basis before the majority of those composing the class concerned understand tie meaning of such a change and give the movement class-conscious support.
(Socialist Standard, June 1921)